I thought I'd post the end result of the handmade vanilla... for all those who were awaiting with baited breath for the end of that story. (There could totally be one person out there who cares - - humor me.) I learned some things in the process which I will now share with you. Because it is the season of giving. This is almost like gold, frankincense and myrrh, right?

You actually need more than a dozen beans for a typical 750 ml bottle of vodka. Almost twice that. I don't know if maybe there was a better way to steep it - perhaps in a warmer window (although the instructions I got were to keep it in a cool, dark place while it steeps), but I just wasn't happy with how light the vanilla was looking after four weeks and it wasn't getting any darker. So I bought a bunch more beans off the interweb at a much more reasonable price that the single-bean-deal they had going at Whole Foods. Once the extra beans were in for awhile, it started to pick up the dark caramel, dare I say, Diet Coke-looking tint you're use to seeing in real vanilla extract.

Once you stick that many beans and a little bit of dark spiced rum into a vodka bottle, it displaces quite a bit of liquid. So you'll need a place to store the excess if you're not into drinking it the way I'm not (because, as it's been established by a third party, I am not a drunk). I kept several beans out and started a smaller bottle for what was displaced... ironically in an old vanilla bottle.

It is harder to find small, decorative glass bottles than it is to find a... well... something that's really, really hard to find -- An elephant in the ocean? A bra at a Lillthfair? A bar of soap at a Grateful Dead concert? I looked at Target, Michaels, Jo-Ann's Fabrics, Tuesday Morning, Costco, Pier One, Wal-Mart (you see how desperate I was?) and every other place I could think. Sure they all had bottles, but I was hoping to get more than three gifts out of this effort. Finding cute, non-plastic one to two ounce bottles, is a bigger effort than I thought (and I gave up on the "cute" part right away). I finally got these adorable bottles at AC Moore, and they weren't terribly expensive -- unless you consider the gallons and gallons of gas I wasted looking for them and the forty-five minutes waiting in line with over a thousand people who were all there for a 25% (seriously?!?) discount that day but I was getting those bottles, dammit, because I wasn't going back up Rockville Pike during December any time again in my natural life. Their only problem was that they didn't come with stoppers. I bought corks for that, but had to give away each bottle with tacky instructions: "Don't turn it over as you're carrying it home unless you want to smell like a cookie all day." Next time I do this, I may just go to the airport and ask for all their airline booze empties.

A standard 750 ml bottle of vodka doesn't net near enough bottles for the amount of gifts I'd planned. I expected that I'd get about fifteen to twenty bottles from the one bottle if I kept them under two fluid ounces each like an airplane booze bottle. But the only bottles I could find were quite a bit bigger than that. So I only got about ten bottles from that first effort.

Apparently, or so the dude at the store where I bought the second bottle of vodka told me, Vanilla Flavored Svedka Vodka tastes better than Vanilla Flavored Smirnoff Vodka. I'm gonna have to take his word on that one.

When you buy Christmas ribbons from the dollar bin at Target, you get what you pay for. There was more cardboard in the spool the ribbon was wound on than there was ribbon on the spool.

I can make even something as simple as creating a gift tag, horribly complicated and need to purchase multiple tools for the project. I gave up on having The Dormouse design the tags because they had to be so small. Plus she grew bored with her assigned task of shaking the bottle every day and forgot about the whole thing by the second week. They are very cute though, aren't they? If I could remember who's blog I found those cute drawings on, I would totally tell you. (Oh wait, I figured it out... some people are smart enough to put their websites on things they let any old schmoe download. Thanks, Ashley!)

People who think my Christmas cards were "morbid and depressing" like the vanilla much, much better. Some people, however, put my Christmas cards on the bulletin board where they keep photos of their grandkids and claim to have plans to leave it up all year long. So there's no accounting for taste.